You have a hot new business idea, and you’re raring to go, only you don’t know exactly where to start. You might be tempted to start posting on your personal social media about your business idea and trying to get people already interested. And while enthusiasm is precisely what you need, you also need to remember that you’re now a brand.

There are few steps that are pretty standard ground for almost every business. However, the bonus that most companies have in 2018 is it has never been cheaper or easier to get a business up and running. Gone are the days where you needed office doors and ceilings to look professional. You no longer need a reception as a front of house; 90 per cent of what you need is accessible online, and free.

In this article, we will be looking at the essential points for making your business look professional from the start.

Assuming you have:

  • Product idea / Service idea
  • Enough product to begin to sell
  • Company Name
  • Registered with the appropriate legal bodies
  • Gotten any permits required
  • Certification to sell your product or service
  • Got a business bank account
  • Pricing structure

Then let’s get to it!

1. The quickest, easiest, and most integral part of running a successful business is your social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube are all big players in driving traffic to your website (which will get to soon). Take some time to set up an account on each of these platforms with a handle that matches your business name. You do not have to post on these immediately so don’t feel pressured to do so. This is simply to secure your name, and so that you can have social icons on your website.

2. Design your logo, this will be an integral part of your branding. Think about what you want your logo to convey, who your audience is, and how it links in with your company. If you aren’t sure that you will be able to design something sleek and professional then check out some freelance websites like Upwork, Fivver and People Per Hour. You can then work with a designer to put your ideas on paper.

3. Next up, your website. You might be thinking about putting together your own website in a bid to save some money and some time, and while that is a great idea, what you can build will be limited to your knowledge of a few scripts or some free templates. It will pay for you to check out some web design companies, have a clear idea in your mind about what you want to achieve from your website, the functionality you would like to have, and have a chat with the company you want to work with. They’ll be able to guide you in what will work best.

4. Set up a social media management platform. There are a few platforms that you can use for free. Although they might have limited functionality, you may not want to be spending a monthly amount just yet. SocialOomph, Buffer, Sprout Social and Hootsuite are all great options. You connect your chosen social media management tool to all of your social media networks. Next, spend some time curating content that would be great for your target audience. Once you have a few RSS feeds to choose from, start planning your schedule. Try to post around 3 to 4 times per day on all platforms, and a higher frequency on Twitter. The lifespan of a tweet is very short, the timelines move quickly which is helpful for reusing content but means you’ll need to pay special attention. You will be able to track your social media analytics from these platforms too, but will likely need to upgrade your account. Useful if you are intending to use the data for marketing purposes (which you should be).

5. Something a little more real world is where will you be working? While you might be daydreaming about working in coffee shops all day, or perhaps working from your bed neither of these options is the most productive way to spend your working hours. You’d be wise to create a space in your home or room where you dedicate time to your work. It doesn’t have to be big, or fancy, just a space to separate work from play. There is of course nothing stopping you from the occasional coffee shop day, or in fact working from your bed, but research shows that a dedicated space will help you to get in a working frame of mind.

6. If you are setting up a newsletter most countries require you to include an address for the business. If you aren’t comfortable having your home address on this, then take some time to research an office address. This is a company that provide an office address for your correspondences. They usually also supply a mail forwarding option, meeting spaces, front of house should someone come looking for your company, and many also offer a phone service too. Great options for keeping your home address off of those newsletters.

7. You might also like to keep your mobile number private. If you aren’t considering buying a separate phone line or mobile, then a great option for you is Google Voice. It has some great services like voicemail transcripts, call forwarding and it’s is free. A great service for protecting your phone number and retaining some privacy.

8. Think about your marketing plan. You might have plenty of notes on how you want to manage your marketing but which one is going to suit your business and budget best? There are some incredible and inexpensive ways to build a following without compromising on quality, and all they take is a little bit of time and some creativity. Evernote used a closed beta to entice signups, once signed up to get access you needed to invite more people. In general this works because people tend to invite other people who they already know will be interested in the service provided. Likewise Dropbox, they offered users extra ‘free’ storage in exchange for inviting more users. This saw them have huge growth over a short period. Yelp made their review site incredibly social, giving their reviewers profiles, different levels and even arranging events. All of the above are great examples of how smart marketing can make use of smaller audiences and turn them into an outreach program by giving users exactly what they want. Everyone wins.

9. Be brand smart. Remember that from the very start you are trying to build brand awareness. Brand awareness is simply the level at which customers are aware of your brand, what it stands for, what it sells and the trust factor. Any space in which your business is occupying, you need to ensure consistency. Business cards, envelopes, stickers, pens, t-shirts, letterheads and an email signature should all have one identical logo, the same address, the same website – continuity is king.

10. Remember that you are the face of the company. When you meet clients or take video calls, be mindful of your appearance. You and your brand are now one and the same. If you will be meeting clients face to face, then it might be time to invest in a few ‘go-to’ outfits. Something slick, professional and that above all makes you feel confident. Although it is more and more acceptable to wear something casual like jeans and a t-shirt than it used to be, that doesn’t mean you have to follow that trend.

11. Try not to undervalue your time or services. It is really easy in the early days for you to price yourself too low in a bid to get a few clients through the doors. Although offering great value for your services is a smart idea, pricing yourself too low sets an expectation for future work to also be that low. So while you might be tempted to drop your prices if you haven’t landed a client in the first few weeks, stick to your initial financial expectations — you set them for a reason.

If you have followed this rough guide and you have everything set up and working to the standard you had hoped, it is time to make sure you maintain everything. If you find you have a lot of admin work and it is taking up too much of your time, consider taking on a virtual assistant to help you.

Make sure that you are keeping your books in good order, and maybe even have an accountant lined up ready for tax time. Running your own business is very desirable due to the amount of freedom you have. You can choose your own hours, take holidays when you like, but even more interestingly you have the ability to innovate, create and grow your product line or services in any way you feel works for you and your company.

The key to a successful business is the ability to move with trends while still providing high quality goods or services. Customers and clients will always return to where they feel their interests are taken care of.